A ‘difficult’ young horse is transformed, a gentle giant wins and there’s a big milestone in a champion’s career

  • Five years of patience and long-term thinking with what was once a “difficult” young horse has really paid off for British Olympic showjumper Harry Charles as the 10-year-old secured his first grand prix victory in Belgium this week. Meanwhile, flying Dutchman Harrie Smolders claimed the overall title as Longines Global Champions Tour champion of champions for the second time in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Read on for our round-up of this week’s international showjumping news and results.

    Showjumping news: Sherlock finds all the answers

    At Sentower Park, Belgium, the 1.55m CSI3* grand prix was won by Great Britain’s Harry Charles and 10-year-old rising star Sherlock. In a four-way jump-off, Harry went head-to-head with Lorenzo De Luca on F One USA, coming out over half a second faster of the two double clears to secure the 10-year-old stallion’s first grand prix success. The previous day, 24-year-old Harry also won a 1.45m two-phase with the speedy Billabong Du Roumois.

    “It was Sherlock’s first grand prix win – he’s not done so many though,” Harry told H&H. “I’ve had him since the start of his five-year-old career so he’s actually the horse I’ve had the longest in the stable.

    “As a six- and seven-year-old he was very difficult – he was very sensitive and thought about the job a lot. A lot of times I’ve thought ‘Where am I going with him?’ But his jump was always so amazing – he’s one of the best young horses I’ve ever seen jumping, let alone ridden – then when he put it all together, he was exceptional. So we always knew it was worth keeping going with him.”

    The Belgian-bred son of Bisquet Balou VD Mispelaere only jumped his first ranking class as a nine-year-old.

    “He’s 10 now, but I still treat him like he’s a year behind the other horses – a lot of 10-year-olds will have been to championships,” said Harry. “But it’s all about doing things in his own time and at the last few shows the results have been amazing. He’s not had many jumps down and the big jumps are very easy to him.”

    Harry felt that the track for Sentower’s three-star grand prix was “not far off a five-star”.

    “They only got four clears, which says something,” he said. “Sherlock used to be quite a slow horse, but over the past year I’ve been working on trying to pick his speed up a bit. We’ve been doing a lot of turns in the indoor school and getting him to try to follow my hands. Now, he’s actually the easiest horse I ride. He went from the most difficult to the easiest horse I have! He’s so intelligent – you just have to point him at a jump and he does it. You turn him left, he goes left, you turn him right, he goes right, you say ‘Whoa’ and he comes back. He’s the perfect horse actually, very special.”

    The next goal for the pair is the World Cup qualifiers of Madrid and La Coruna.

    “I’m half thinking about him for the World Cup Finals, then with the Olympics next year we have Balou, but behind him he’s a great horse to have,” said Harry. “The Olympics might just come a little bit early, but he is more than capable of it.

    “Then Billabong had a little win too – he’s always chipping in!” said Harry, who is in action later this week at the World Cup show in Lyon, France.

    British victory in Portugal

    In other showjumping news, Lily Attwood took a starring role at the CSI2* Villamoura Champions Tour in Portugal, when landing Sunday’s grand prix with her great partner Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z, sealing a great week for the Brits in which Laura Renwick made a return to the winner’s enclosure and Graham Gillespie triumphed in a jump-off class with Veneno.

    Phillip Miller on tour

    On his first competitive trip abroad for four years, Phillip Miller helped Great Britain to sixth in the Nations Cup in Vejer, Spain, going on to finish sixth in the CSIO3* Andalucia grand prix with Brendon Stud and Pennie Cornish’s Don Royale, just 2sec off the pace with an eye-catching double clear. Joining him on the British squad for Friday’s Nations Cup, led by Stanny van Paesschen, were Joe Stockdale (Ebanking), Adrian Whiteway (Chacco Volo) and Skye Higgin (Djordania Du Tillard).

    In other showjumping news, Harrie Smolders is crowned LGCT champion of champions

    In other showjumping news, Harrie Smolders is crowned LGCT champion of champions after an exciting evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    A returning LGCT champion is crowned

    Stepping up to be crowned the 17th Longines Global Champions Tour champion of champions was flying Dutchman Harrie Smolders. Following up on his 2017 title, the 43-year-old clinched the crown ahead of nearest rivals Maikel van der Vleuten and Henrik von Eckermann after a battle that rumbled into the final grand prix of the season.

    “I know how it feels [to win the championship] and I wanted to feel it again,” said Harrie. “To be the overall champion again is a big marker in my career. All the dedication from my team, my people and my grooms make this a big milestone for all of us.”

    Showjumping news: final ticket to the Super Grand Prix is pocketed

    Some breathtaking turns and a pulsating finish from last-drawn German Christian Kuker on the 13-year-old Comme Il Faut stallion Checker 47 earned a well-deserved top spot in the Longines Global Champions Tour grand prix of Riyadh by just 0.16sec and he headed home with the hefty £150,000 first prize.

    “I had flashbacks because I was last to go in Doha [at the start of the season] and lost it by 0.05sec [to Philipp Weishaupt] to finish second, so I thought, ‘That’s not going to happen today!” said Christian, stable jockey at the Ludger Beerbaum stables. “I felt a little slower over fences one, two and three – I had the strides I wanted, but they were holding strides everywhere – but then I turned very, very tight to the double, which I did yesterday with him in the GCL. He did it very well then, so I thought ‘Why not try it again?’ He did it super again.

    “To bring it home and to cross the finish line and see that you’ve won is always an amazing feeling, but that was very, very special for me today.”

    Riesenbeck International were crowned GCL 2023 champions, retaining the title from last year. In action in this leg were Philipp Weishaupt on Zineday and Ireland’s Eoin McMahon with Mila, but Christian Kukuk has been key to the success of the squad owned and managed by Ludger Beerbaum.

    “It was six wins, leading overall from the first competition – most of the time with a comfortable margin,” said Ludger. “It got tight at the end and Paris Panthers made it really exciting, but we’ve never had a team dominating the season more than we did this year.”

    Katie Dinan wins the World Cup qualifier at the Washington International Horse Show

    Katie Dinan and her “gentle giant” Brego R’n B win the World Cup qualifier at the Washington International Horse Show.

    A first five-star win after a 10-year wait

    And last but certainly not least in this week’s international showjumping news round-up, US rider Katie Dinan and 17-year-old “gentle giant” Brego R’n B posted their first five-star victory together in the $450,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup at the Washington International Horse Show. This win came 10 years after Katie’s last five-star success.

    “It’s hard not to love Brego,” she said of the Namelus R gelding owned by Grant Road Partners, who she has ridden for five years. “He’s 17 and he really, really deserves it – I’m thrilled for him. In the jump-off, he showed all of his amazing qualities – he has huge scope, quality, bravery, intelligence and he tries hard. You can’t really ask for more as a rider. I think he knew he won.”

    Katie combines top-flight showjumping with a PhD programme studying circadian rhythms in a genetics lab at Rockefeller University.

    “Brego has had the same groom, Lou Beudin, since we got him five years ago and he loves her so much – they’re a really great pair,” she said.

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